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A Safety Sanctuary: planning now for a future crisis

Living and growing up in Costa Rica I never thought about the concept of a Safety Sanctuary.  Over the years I now realize how important this is for many people and how lucky we are living in Costa Rica where we don’t really think about these things.

I clearly remember back in the early 2000s, I was still only a few years married and was beginning growing the firm after the first years after my father passing. At the time, we had a small office in an apartment found in the same place where we lived. One morning, on September 11, 2001, I remember waking up and turning on the television to the news, stunned to see images of the World Trade Center with smoke billowing out. A couple of years earlier, there had been a terror attack with a bomb in the basement, and I thought it was something similar. Not this time, this was something entirely different. We all know how that came about and everything that ensued.

In the next few years immediately after the 9-11 disaster, we started looking at a phenomenon that, at first, we did not understand. Our tourism was beginning to get more and more activity every year. Then we started hearing of more and more US nationals purchasing land around the beaches in Costa Rica. That went on for a couple of years.

In the local industry, there were comments about the luxury homes built by American owners. The Los Sueños resort became the first resort location where Americans were purchasing land to build their homes.
Around that time, we started dealing with some of our first American clients. I still remember my conversations with some of my clients back then and asking them why they had chosen to build abroad. The answer from James, one of my clients at the time, was quite an eye-opener.

Planning for the future

James said: "After the 9-11 disaster, for the first time, we realized that America had a weakness. For years we thought we were extremely safe. We thought we were protected geographically, with an ocean on either side. We believed that with the large size of the country and our military power, the American mainland was safe. For the very first time, we realized that was no longer true. We now feel anxious and concerned that we are not infallible and that this could happen again. This sense of uncertainty and risk is very troubling, and it makes us try to plan for the future. I want to have a place that I can consider safe in the worst-case scenario that something horrible was to happen back home."

For years after this, Costa Rica received more and more North Americans that invested in their vacation homes in our beach areas. After a few years, the sense of risk after the 9-11 disaster subdued. The 2006-2007 bubble in the USA led locally to increased speculation over beach property in Costa Rica. The madness of rising prices, people buying and selling the same property over and over again, etc., led to people forgetting why they had the interest to own property abroad.

Costa Rica's International Appeal

Over the years, then Costa Rica developed an excellent international image, and all our natural wonders are sought by more and more visitors every year. Over the recent couple of years, we have experienced significantly increased interest again of international buyers wanting to own property in Costa Rica. We heard over and over again that Canadians were running away from their ever-harsher winters. UK nationals have lost their EU benefits of owning property in Spain or Italy. Traditionally, Europeans, in general, have found the Caribbean to be an appealing exotic location. However, climate change is making every hurricane season more dangerous.

Today, the Coronavirus pandemic has changed everything. Life, as we knew it just a couple of months ago, has, and will further evolve. However, one thing that we already see right now, even while we are in the middle of lockdowns worldwide, is continued interest in property ownership in Costa Rica. We are directly experiencing an increase in inquiries from North Americans who want to buy a property and build a home in Costa Rica.

What we see today is a renewed sense of uneasiness and anxiety about the current situation. We see a very similar feeling to what my client James described in the years right after the 9-11 disaster. At this point, people do not think IF this could happen again; they think WHEN it could happen again.

We Have Become a Safety Sanctuary

Currently, in the middle of this pandemic, several of our past clients decided to travel to Costa Rica before the situation got ugly. They felt safer in their homes here in Costa Rica instead of being in larger urban cities that are home for them. Others that did not manage to travel before borders were closed are anxious to come to stay in their homes to wait out this situation out here instead of back home in the US.

Many others are thinking the same way, and those with the financial capacity to do it are deciding to move right now. They prefer to get started in the selection of property and planning, so they are ready for the next possible event. Owners realize that the process of design, planning, and preparation for construction takes time; therefore, they are deciding to move forward right away.


It was truly heart-warming to receive a call from James again only last week. 16 years after building his home, James just wanted to say thank you. It was touching to hear him saying that in current context of the pandemic, how priceless it was for him to have a home that was still perfect and that gave him and his family an opportunity to be safe, to connect with nature, and be here instead of New York at this time.  It was touching to hear how he felt blessed and that still today he simply wanted to reach out and say thank you for everything we did.

Roderick Anderson

CEO & Design Director, SARCO Architects Costa Rica

Costa Rica's Exemplary Handling of the Pandemic

Costa Rica has handled the pandemic situation exceptionally. Our number of new infections has been going down consistently for the past two weeks. As I write this article, the most recent news is that we have more people recover from the virus every day than that of new infections. Our health system had coped with the situation, total infections are still below 700, and the total number of deaths is still less than 10.

Compare that with our neighbor Panama, who had their first infected case a few days after we did, and today have over 5,000 infections and deaths over 150. Costa Rica is already receiving international acclaim by our management of the pandemic, and more and more news is coming out by foreigners that were here on vacation and decided to have an extended stay to wait out the pandemic here. They are even becoming vocal about how it is the best decision they made, as they see the numbers from their country back home.

At SARCO Architects we are here to help you create your Safety Sanctuary

At SARCO Architects Costa Rica, we are remaining fully productive and quite busy. Thankfully, being implementers of technology as a core part of our philosophy, this was a tremendous help in the middle of the pandemic. The decision to work from home was an easy one for us, and we have sent our design team home and began working remotely flawlessly. Over the past years, we always invested in the right systems and equipment to take full advantage of our technology. This approach was a massive advantage for us, as we have remained fully operational and working for our clients' projects.

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